August 30, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Quechee Gorge, Vermont, photographed two days before Hurricane Irene
The snapshots were taken from the overlook at the Trap Door Bakery and Cafe, two days before Hurricane Irene reached New England, on August 27, 2011.
Same view: You Tube video from eringray37 shot on August 28, 2011.
August 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Liv moves to Brooklyn to study voice and opera at NYU Steinhardt graduate program.
What more could go wrong this month? Both kids totaled a car each and my best camera was left outdoors during a monsoon (saving that tale for another post). Mmmm, let’s see–oh yes, an earthquake occurs while moving Liv into her new apartment in Brooklyn. Although, I could look at as “every cloud has a silver lining,” or in the “glass is half full” vein–with both auto accidents, neither child was maimed or scarred, nor did either child injure another.
Tuesday morning we awoke at 5:oo and were well on our way by 6:30. The trip to Brooklyn was delightfully uneventful. After unloading the car and exploring the neighborhood, we headed over to Ikea for mattress and bookshelves. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were surprised to see hundreds of Ikea staff, clad in their unmissable bright yellow polo shirts, milling around the outside, and with faces buried deep in their cell phones. As Tom tried to pull into Ikea underground parking a furious fellow came charging over animatedly demanding “what are you doing.” Tom replied “parking.” The fellow informed us that an earthquake had occurred. We all three just looked at each other in disbelief and said to ourselves what more can go awry this month?
While waiting for the fire marshall’s ‘all clear’ to allow the store to re-open, we had the opportunity to explore the Erie Basin Park adjacent to Ikea Plaza. The Erie Basin Park is a waterfront walkway and park, and museum of sorts, dedicated to the former use of the site, which was a place with giant berths where mending of great ships took place. The enormous tools, cranes, bolts, and compass are displayed as sculpture and the exhibits are interactive and playful, yet formidable in the way they speak to the great history of the shipping industry.
Ikea remained closed so we drove back to Brooklyn to formulate an alternative plan for locating a mattress. Tom recalled seeing two Ikeas within driving distance of Brooklyn on Googles’ maps and Liv’s friend Dave recommended lunch at the very charming and classic Niçoise restaurant Pates and Traditions–with the most fabulous waitress and dessert–crêpes with homemade chocolate and cream, fresh pears, and almonds.
We then headed to the Ikea in Elizabeth, NJ, where we became stuck in a two hour, gridlocked traffic jam at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. We finally gave up and were fortunately, able to turn around. By this time, the Ikea in Brooklyn had reopened. We just made it there by 7:30, in time to do all our shopping before the 9:00 closing time, otherwise Liv would have spent her first night in her new apartment on the floor. After assembling bed, bookcase, and lamps, we didn’t get back on the road to Gloucester until after 10:00–of course we got lost trying to navigate the parkways out of Brooklyn and arrived home nearly twenty-four hours later. A very long day–our bed has never felt so luxurious as it did that early morning.
August 28, 2011 § 1 Comment
This gorgeous female Black Swallowtail butterfly emerged during Hurricane Irene. What to do when a butterfly ecloses during inclement weather? Take a moment to enjoy it’s beauty close-up, provide food in the way of nectar plants, and wait until the storm abates before releasing.
Newly Emerged Female Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)
August 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
Recently a design colleague wrote inquiring as to the best time to mow her client’s fields as she was concerned about disrupting the breeding cycle of the Monarch butterfly. I am often asked this question and it is well worth considering, not only for the sake of the Monarchs, but for the survival of the myriad species of butterflies, bees, and other pollinating and beneficial insects that find food and shelter in untilled fields.
August 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
At this time every year readers write in to inquire about the mysterious and startling “furry shrimp” flying in their gardens. Perhaps you have a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth I write back? They are often seen nectaring at our North American native wildflowers bee balm (Monarda didyma) and white flowering summer phlox ‘David’ (Phlox paniculata), as well as the butterfly bushes and Verbena bonariensis. Scroll down through several posts to see article..
August 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“At this point, it is the summer phlox and, above all, the towering lilies that are providing the scent in our garden in Milton. And very heady it is, too- especially on still, hot days.” - My friend David Godine writes of his beautiful garden in Milton, Massachusetts.
I am wonderfully fortunate that Mr. Godine is both my publisher and editor for my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!. Not only does David have a deep love for all things books, he is passionate for gardens and gardening.
August 3, 2011 § 6 Comments
Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, or mutant new world creature?
The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemeris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.
Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.
The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.
For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.
Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long. “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.
Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.
All photos shot at the Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate with Fujifilm x100.
August 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Come join me at the Sawyer Free Library on Wednesday, August 3rd, at 10:00, for my children’s program titled Butterflies of the World. We we will be making mobiles and learning about butterflies from around the world, including the new, very special butterfly collection recently given to the Sawyer Free Library.
The butterfly plates were confiscated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service during a US Customs inspection because the butterflies are believed to be mislabeled. Thus far, that has been my expereience in trying to catalogue the collection. The butterfies that I have identified up to this point are all from the Neotropic ecozone. I imagine that the butterflies from which this collection is comprised were raised in captivity and immediately killed after emerging as they are all in perfect to near perfect condition. Cataloguing all the butterflies is going to be a great project to tackle this winter!